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    • CommentTimeJan 8th 2008 edited
    So, I've decided that the first few months of this year should be focused on reading 'futurist' books (along with my usual pile of comics).

    I've started with A Brief History of the Future; How Visionary Thinkers Changed the World and Tomorrow's Trends Are 'Made' and Marketed by Oona Strathern and What Is Your Dangerous Idea?: Today's Leading Thinkers on the Unthinkable edited by John Brockman.

    Next up I'm thinking of Megatrends by John Naisbitt or The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil.

    Any suggestions to focus my reading?
  1.  (460.2)
    I dunno, is Future-Shock still valid for such a reading list?
  2.  (460.3)
    SHAPING THINGS, Bruce Sterling.

    For the recent history of futurism: GREAT MAMBO CHICKEN AND THE TRANSHUMAN CONDITION, Ed Regis.

    I sometimes wonder what happened to Romana Machado... during the 90s Extropian rush, she came up with this marvellous quote: "Death and taxes are just unsolved engineering problems."
    • CommentTimeJan 9th 2008
    I'm currently reading Richard Clarke's "Breakpoint," which breaks down a lot of futurist treads into accesible language. One scary trend is the way the rich people of the world are poised to gain multiple permanent advantages (actually being stronger, faster and smarter) than poorer people.
  3.  (460.5)
    A futurist reading list does NOT include science fiction.

    Pull yourselves together. I'll be returning later to delete some messages in this thread.
    • CommentAuthorlex
    • CommentTimeJan 9th 2008
    Mind Children by Hans Moravec. It's a little dated now, but still a good read.
    • CommentAuthorStefanJ
    • CommentTimeJan 9th 2008
    Imagined Worlds and/or Disturbing the Universe by Freeman Dyson.

    Dyson is old school and sometimes a bit cranky, but he had his arm up in the future to his elbow for many years and can provide some good perspectives to the young folk. I mean, cripes:

    'When we are a million species spreading through the galaxy, the question "Can man play God and still stay sane?" will lose some of its terrors. We shall be playing God, but only as local deities and not as lords of the universe. There is safety in numbers. Some of us will become insane, and rule over empires as crazy as Doctor Moreau's island. Some of us will shit on the morning star. There will be conflicts and tragedies. But in the long run, the sane will adapt and survive better than the insane.
    The expansion of life over the universe is a beginning, not an end. At the same time as life is extending its habitat quantitatively, it will also be changing and evolving qualitatively into new dimensions of mind and spirit that we cannot imagine. The acquisition of new territory is important, not as an end in itself, but as a means to enable life to experiment with intelligence in a million forms.'
    • CommentTimeJan 10th 2008
    • CommentAuthorzenbullet
    • CommentTimeJan 17th 2008
    The Fourth Discontinuity: The Co-Evolution of Humans and Machines (Paperback)
    by Bruce Mazlish

    edited review by publisher's weekly

    In Mazlish's scenario, computerized robots enjoy a symbiotic relation with humans, perhaps even transmogrify into a new species, while human beings, growing ever more mechanical in body and mind, also turn into "something like a new species . . . who will replace precomputer Man."

    People, asserts this MIT history professor, differ from machines only to a degree; the "fourth discontinuity"--our mental separation from the machines we create--will soon end, he predicts.

    This provocative study first assesses the shocks to the human ego administered by Copernicus, Darwin and Freud, who refuted our species' presumed discontinuities with the universe, with the animal kingdom and with our own subconscious minds.

    Ranging widely from Leonardo's inventions to genetic engineering, with excursions into ancient automata, Charles Babbage's prototype computers, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Samuel Butler's Erewhon , Mazlish ponders our ambivalent relationship to technology.

    {less futurist, more a retelling of humanity's relationship to our machinery}

    {but still a good chunky protranshumanist book}
      CommentAuthorAlan Tyson
    • CommentTimeJan 17th 2008
    The Millennial Project: Colonizing the Galaxy in Eight Easy Steps by Marshall Savage is a pretty good read, though it is very obvious it was written to be accessible to new agey types and so has a lot of flowery language. It offers solutions for everything from space, food, and energy requirements to psychological problems of living in artificial habitats. It's a touch idealistic, but the concepts and engineering are, from what I can tell, quite sound.
  4.  (460.11)
    I used to love the future of the past, ie the future as a imaginary view from 1920s to 1950s. It´s a large pool of ideological contradiction and conflict. So, one of the best, in my opinion, anticipation book is Anticipations, by H. G. Wells, with some sweet predictions from the Twenth Centuy first decade.
    • CommentTimeFeb 9th 2008
    Well, as Warren recommended it I've just read SHAPING THINGS. Fantastic read, made me think about design differently for the first time in a while. I think it will need a couple more readings at least and a bit of 'googleing' to add depth. Also picked up MASSIVE CHANGE by BRUCE MAU (as i loved LIFE STYLE). I am on holiday next week so i'll have a good go at that then.

    Have read most of H.G. Wells work and am really looking for current works. So lets bump this thread back to the top and see if you folks can help me add more mass to my bookcases.
    • CommentTimeFeb 12th 2008
    It's also worth reading a few books about how the future is actually made. At the risk of committing thread rot in the direction of theory of history rather than future studies, I'll submit a few.

    "The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions," a 1962 classic by Thomas Kuhn. He gave the world the term "paradigm shift." The book mostly describes how established scientific thinking reacts to change, first by explaining it away, then starting to consider the evidence pointing to change, then tentatively adopting the new paradigm and finally establishing it as the new baseline. As I recall, he used the example of Newtonian vs. Einsteinian physics. Still in print, I believe.

    Bertrand de Jouvenel, a French journalist and nephew of the writer Colette, wrote in the 1960s "The Art of Conjecture," about the history of making serious predictions about the future. One example he gives is the Marquis de Condorcet's theory of two wagons on the same road, headed in the same direction, as in two countries at different stages of industrial development. (Sadly, the Marquis didn't see his own future coming, and his head ended up on a pile of others during the 1793 Revolutionary Terror.) Among other things, de Jouvenel stressed the role of images, what we'd now call scenarios, in making a forecast. You can find this book without too much trouble or expense on Abebooks or similar.

    Seven Tomorrows, by Paul Hawken (of the Smith&Hawken mail-order empire), James Ogilvy and Peter Schwartz (1982). Scenarios based on trends and concerns up to the late 1970s. Another classic, stressing the importance of examining multiple trends and their possible interactions. It was published following the hangover from the western postwar industrial surge (and the 1973 and 1979 oil shocks) but it covered issues still relevant today (even not more so), such as energy and pollution (maps well to climate change). Available used.

    Speaking of which, there's Bruce Sterling's "Tomorrow Now: Envisioning The Next Fifty Years" (2002) which picks a hatful of trends and examines their implications positive and negative. He throws in scenarios for each.

    And for a laugh, check out Dead Media, a brave but ultimately doomed attempt to classify the fossil record of dead media, from Assyrian cuneiform to the Zune. It was doomed because the original object was to compile a coffee-table book of beautiful examples of old media but the number of examples became too great for that *and* the rate of modern media obsolescence made it an open-ended project. Still, the taxonomic system wasn't bad and is handy for looking up the odd pyrophone or what have you. It's an object lesson that all the cool crap from the future has to end up somewhere and it will probably be forgotten. (But it doesn't always stay dead...)

    Many moons ago (okay, 1990-1993) I was in a graduate program on Future Studies at the Univeristy of Houston at Clear Lake. It's an excellent program but I stopped 6 to 9 hours shy of completion. My job got a lot busier and I never could find the time again. However, my area of study at the time was the internet (pre-web) and it inspired me to follow my hacker friends into that nascent industry. No dot-com wealth accrued, but it did get me my current good job. So I never did get the degree, but I certainly benefitted from the study.
  5.  (460.14)
    This is a great list of recommendations. I wish I had sometime to add, but all I can give y'all is my appreciation :-).
    • CommentTimeFeb 12th 2008
    I'll second those words of appreciation.

    Thanks for the list. (And thanks, Warren, for weeding out the glaringly obvious. Good to have a boiled down list, rather than a list to sort through.)

    - Z
    • CommentTimeFeb 12th 2008 edited
    If you're interested in a brief detour into capital "F" Futurism, you might enjoy The Futurist Cookbook.

    Here's a review.

    Excerpt: "Against Pasta"